All Jeana Green could think of was that something had exploded in the sky Sunday night.

The North Middleton Township resident, her husband and two of her neighbors sat on a deck talking when the sky lit up about 10:15 p.m.

"It looked like a shooting star, but it was a lot bigger," Green said. "There were pale sparks and orange flames that turned blue-green. Then it was like a fireball, and right before it disappeared, there was a flash like it exploded and it was gone. It lit up the sky like heat lightning."

Mike Snider has been getting a number of reports like that, and he -- along with a 100 others -- saw something similar to Green's description at the same time at the Naylor Observatory in Lewisberry Sunday night.

Except Snider expected it.

At 10:16 p.m. Sunday, the International Space Station made one of its many passes across the Earth, according to NASA.

"That had a lot of people buzzing on Sunday," said Snider, president of the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg, PA, Inc. "The International Space Station transits occur every 90 minutes, but this was one of the better transits. The sun was at the right angle and things were just about perfect for observation."

Only a few of those passes, usually once a day, can be seen in this area. This particular minute-long pass just happened to be very visible to Cumberland County residents, Snider said.

Comment: Sure, don't worry - it was just the space station. It always looks like it's exploding when it passes over. Nothing to see here, move along.

Meteor possible

Green, however, was skeptical that it was just the space station.

"It definitely looked like an explosion," Green said. "It flashed really brightly."

Depending on the sunlight and the angle of the space station, a flash of light can occur, according to Snider, who mentioned the Iridium satellite constellation, made up of 66 satellites that on occasion cause satellite flares when the sunlight hits them.

Snider, however, doesn't rule out that it could have been a meteor, stating that the observatory would be tracking one item and won't be able to see everything at all times of the day.

Green's description also fits the "flaring meteor" or bolide/fireball meteor, though those are much rarer than the meteors that people can see every night.

"There were a number of meteors seen," Snider said. "On any clear night, you can see one or two meteors an hour. It's quite common to see a meteor pass through the sky."

David Griffith of Bucks County, formerly from Carlisle and avid skywatcher, noted he saw something similar in his skies Sunday night a little before 10 p.m. - something he wouldn't confuse with a satellite.

"I enjoy watching the night sky for meteor showers and aurora events, [and] I'll watch the sky when the ISS passes over," Griffith said. "Depending on when you see the ISS there are many variables that affect the brightness of the station. Probably the main factor is the relative position of the sun. Sometimes it looks like a faint star. Other times it looks like a very bright planet. The bolide that vaporized in the night sky on Aug. 3 was brighter than the moon. The bolide could not be confused for the ISS. The only way the ISS would like like what I saw is if it reentered the atmosphere."

Whether it was the International Space Station or a rare form of a meteor, residents can catch more glimpses of a night light show when the Perseid meteor shower gets into full swing next week. While the shower has been active since mid-July, it is expected to peak on Aug. 12, creating a show of 40 to 60 meteors per hour.

Though there is no exact time at which the Perseid meteor shower will occur, the best conditions to view it will be on a clear night with little moonlight. Snider said the shower will come from the direction of the Perseus constellation, which will be located a little east of due north.